Business growth depends on innovation. What better place to learn about all the new products and services available and to network and mastermind with the best of the best in the car wash industry than the biggest car wash show presented every year by the International Carwash Association? With the speed of computer chips doubling every 18 months, there are many new technologies that evolve every year and change the way we do business. For the car wash industry, the ICA’s The Car Wash Show is the place to explore all the new technology that helps transform the car wash industry.
The old way of doing business does not work anymore. To succeed in the past, one had to only work hard “in” one’s business and mail coupons and incentives to new and existing customers. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), 9 out of 10 businesses fail within the first 10 years. But there is a catch: nine out of 10 franchisees succeed over 10 years. This is because franchisees have to follow a system that is already in place, while the franchisor works on marketing and innovating the business. Today, more than ever, business owners should look at franchisors and invest more time, energy, blood, sweat, and tears to increase online visibility, loyalty, customer experience, and profit by taking advantage of today’s technology to automate many of these processes.
Today, the timeless principles of growing a business by offering exceptional service, friendly staff, great value, nice atmosphere, and exceeding customers’ expectation may be enough to bring back the customers, but it is not enough to drive in new clients. The Internet and smartphones have changed the game, and a new savvier customer has evolved. Finding the right company to do business with is accomplished through Google and Yelp. If a company does not show up on Google Maps or the first page in Google search, the company will be missing the opportunities to attract new clients because they are the best-kept secret. Four out of five customers who search Google will click on Yelp to check reviews. A study done in 2012 by the National Restaurant Association concluded that over 79 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation from a friend or a family member. Today’s consumers are influenced on which business to trust or to avoid by people they don’t even know and most likely will never meet.
COMPLAINTS ARE OPPORTUNITIES
As a business owner, there are a lot of things beyond your control that may affect business. You cannot control a slowdown in the economy or the number of competitors around you. But customer service is 100 percent within your control. As new car washes open, the pool of customers is shrinking and business these days has become fiercely competitive; therefore, no business can afford to lose a customer. Although most companies know they can’t afford to lose any business, many don’t take advantage of today’s technology to stay in touch with their customers and get their feedback on services rendered.
“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” — Ronald ReaganAs business owners, we want to exceed our customers’ expectations. After all, we are in the business of solving problems and creating happiness. Unfortunately, many times when customers are unhappy with a service, they leave without saying a word and post a negative review online without giving the business an opportunity to correct the issue and make it right. Though 99.99 percent of customers at any business are happy with the service, they don’t see a need to leave positive feedback. From their point of view, they expect to get good service in exchange for their money. However, those angry customers with personal issues want to get their frustration out, so they go online to let the world know.
What if every car wash customer, regardless of whether they opted for a full-service or an express wash, received a text message within an hour of service asking them to rate the experience? What if happy customers leave their review directly online and unhappy customers only send their feedback to the business owner and give him/her an opportunity to respond and make it right?
Business apps, such as MyLoyaltyApps, can be integrated with any pay terminal with the cooperation of pay terminal software developers, to help businesses increase their online positive reviews and have an opportunity to address negative incidents and turn them to positive experiences. Online reviews, good or bad, also help increase the online ranking of a company. The more people talk or comment about a company online, the higher its ranking.
The most loyal customers in any business are those who had a bad experience that was solved in a manner that exceeded their expectations. These customers become the best word-of-mouth advertisers and promoters of the business. Failing to follow up with customers after a service was rendered or ignoring a customer’s complaint, can be one of the most harmful things to a business. This customer will most likely leave a negative review online and tell all their friends and anyone who will listen about the awful experience he/she encountered.
AUTOMATE YOUR MARKETING STRATEGIES
There are only three ways to increase revenue: increase the number of first-time customers, increase the frequency of visits, and increase the dollar amount per transaction. Many business apps, such as MyLoyaltyApps, can help automate these strategies. As the name implies, the app is a loyalty program that entices customers to join and check-in (with an iPad) on every visit to receive a free car wash after a predetermined number of visits. Multiple triggers could be set in the back office based on last visit to send a text message to encourage customers to come back — and to come back more often. Various triggers could also be set to tempt customers who have fallen off the wagon and have not visited the car wash for over six months to a year, thereby increasing customer retention. Airlines have been using loyalty programs for eons for a simple reason: they work. Another good feature of loyalty programs that business owners could take advantage of is to send SMS messages on slow days to increase customer traffic. Studies have proven that customers who are in the vicinity, who need the service and have time, will take advantage of the offer within minutes of it being sent via text.
You cannot blame a flood on one drop of rain, but all raindrops combined. Google ranking, Yelp reviews, loyalty promotions, exceptional service, friendly staff, great value, nice atmosphere, and exceeding customers’ expectations are all individual raindrops. However, there is one intangible ingredient that is the bond needed to help create the flood: your staff.
A study done by National Restaurant Association concluded that great food does not guarantee return visits, instead the overall experience is the number one influencer for return visits. The overall experience is not provided by the owner of the business, but rather by the employees who are providing the service and are in direct contact with the customers. People do business with people, not companies. When employees are mistreated or disrespected by their superiors, it is normal human behavior for those employees to have no loyalty to the business. Therefore, they will not have any reason to take care of the customers and go the extra mile to create the overall experience. All the employee will care about at that point is showing up to work and putting their hours in, so they get paid. When employees feel insecure at work, they look after number one, themselves. They do just what needs to be done to keep their job or until they find a better opportunity somewhere else.
“Leaders hold a position of power or influence. Those who lead inspire us. We follow those who lead not because we have to, but because we want to. We follow those who lead not for them, but for ourselves.” This is a great description of true leaders versus people in position of power written by Simon Sinek in his book Leaders Eat Last.
Discounts and incentives are common marketing strategies to drive business, but it does not breed loyalty. Building customers’ loyalty takes more than a few features and benefits. Existing clients may leave at any time if they find a more convenient or cheaper place, and competitors or friends may easily lure them to go somewhere else.
At the end of the day, you, as a business owner, are asking your employees to help you achieve your goals, you are asking them to help you achieve your dream. The question is why should they?
True leaders have the ability to inspire, motivate, mentor, and empower people and followers because they have a mission they truly believe in, and they lead with purpose. True leaders put people first; they put the interest of others ahead of their own; they fall in love with their staff first and clients second. True leaders are the ones who are willing to put themselves at risk to protect their followers. True leaders are servants of their people; they build a culture where everyone feels a part of it. True leaders take care of the managers who take care of the supervisors who take care of the staff, then — and only then — will the employees look forward to coming to work every day. They feel happy, secure, and empowered to do what is right for the company and clients.
True leaders are like parents, they love their kids unconditionally, but there are consequences if rules are broken. When a staff member is underperforming, a person in a position of authority may approach the staff member and say, “You are under performing. If this continues you will be fired.” A true leader has empathy and will approach the same staff member and say, “I was evaluating your work and I noticed that you are underperforming. Is everything okay?”
When people in positions of authority look down on their employees, they see smiling faces; when the employees look up, they see asses. A true leader chooses to lead not because it is easy, but because it is hard. True leaders are part of the team. True leaders understand that the decision-maker is at the top, but the daily know-how comes from the employees at the bottom. True leaders empower the staff to make the right decision and do what’s best for the client. True leaders create a stack of daily rituals; they acknowledge their staff, and every morning they look their employees in the eyes, say hello, and give them a pat on the back. They have heart-to-heart talks with employees and ask them how they are doing; ask them about work and if there is anything that can be done to make work more enjoyable. True leaders may have a BBQ every so often for staff and family members. True leaders catch people doing the right thing and reward them. How does your staff see you?
AJ Rassamni is the CEO of Great American Car Wash and the author of two books written specifically for the car wash industry: Increase Business 30% in 30 Days and Dirty Cars Filthy Rich. You can contact AJ at info@MyLoyaltyApps.com or text him at (559) 284-1919.